It’s still pretty much a crapshoot as to whether or not the NFL will play every game from here on out as scheduled, doing so without adding an 18th week to the regular season and pushing playoff games back further. So far, a number of teams have had to lose their bye week, or at least take an earlier or different bye week than scheduled, in order to accommodate game date changes because of Covid-19 outbreaks.
It seems pretty unlikely for the moment that this won’t be an ongoing problem. We continue to grapple with it even as we speak, as it’s not entirely clear as I write this that the Las Vegas Raiders’ next game won’t be moved. It was already bumped from primetime in order to make it easier to move to another week. Right now, their starting offensive line is on the Reserve/Covid-19 list.
The NFL is reportedly very resistant to the idea of adding an 18th week, even though it would instantly become necessary if any team who has already had their bye week has to have a game rescheduled to another week—and in a matter of a couple more weeks, almost every team will already have had their bye week.
But of course they will do what is necessary, only when it is necessary, as Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy recently more or less confirmed, saying that they would “prefer not to” add an extra week and would “like to play as much as possible the current schedule as it sits now”.
He also said that, if necessary, they could reschedule the Super Bowl, moving it back as many as four weeks, all the way into March. The cancellation of the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl would make it even easier to push earlier postseason games back one week to help accommodate the championship game’s original date.
Previously, the league has maintained essentially that all options remain on the table, including even the possibility of putting the season on hold, not perhaps to the extent that the other leagues had to do while the country was still trying to come to grips with even the most basic facts of the pandemic, but at least to try to get things under control.
As you might recall, earlier this month, the league sent out a memo that warned that teams who violate protocol so severely that it leads to an adjustment in the schedule could potentially face a level of discipline that rises to forfeiting games. In other words, it is possible that a team may not even play 16 games this year. it’s unlikely to come to that, but then again, in this environment, you never know.